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💰 SCOTUS contemplates student loans

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The Hustle

Ford apparently applied to patent a system that would enable its vehicles to repossess themselves by driving automatically to easy tow areas, repo agencies, or junkyards. What could go wrong?

In today’s email:

  • Skiing: The industry’s uphill battle.
  • Feature: The economics of Hot Wheels.
  • Student loans: The Supreme Court weighs in.
  • Around the Web: A friendly elk, a recipe finder, Buy Nothing drama, and more cool internet finds.

🎧 On the go? Listen to today’s podcast to hear Zack, Lestraundra, and Rob discuss the history of social media verification, and why Twitter and Meta recently launched paid verification programs.

The big idea
Ski slope

The slopes are shifting for ski resorts

By many counts, the ski industry is booming.

In Wyoming, Alterra’s Jackson Hole has sold out of day passes. Colorado’s Vail Resorts limited ticket sales to help with overcrowding. In two decades, China’s ski industry has swelled from 100 resorts to 800+.

But as the climate changes and energy prices rise, the business of snowy mountains is increasingly becoming an uphill battle, per Bloomberg.

The challenges ahead

For one, global snow coverage is forecast to drop 8% for every degree the world’s temperature rises.

By the 2080s, nearly half of the Winter Olympic Games host regions may not have reliable snowfall. By then, some French ski regions may not have enough snow to function.

Technological innovations have helped reduce the water and electricity needed to make artificial snow — used by 95% of ski resorts globally  — though surging energy costs and warmer temps have canceled out some of the benefits.

Some resorts are diversifying. In France, where resorts spend $42m-$69m on snowmaking annually, Compagnie des Alpes has expanded to amusement parks and gear shops. Chamonix, which hosted the first Winter Olympics, sees 40% of its lift revenues in the offseason, according to Bloomberg.

For larger, profitable resorts…

… especially those at higher altitudes, it’s easier to weather environmental changes. One tactic has been building up a geographically diverse portfolio of resorts and selling seasonal multi-access passes.

  • In 2008, Vail debuted the Epic Pass. Last year, it sold 2.1m passes and posted $347.9m in net income.

Another tactic, for larger resorts, has been raising walk-up prices — at ~6x the rate of inflation since 2012.

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eyeball wearing a hat

No, thanks: Writer Emily Colucci found the “worst art job listing”: assisting an “art world family” — including managing other staff, pets, kids, travel, repairs, guests, and a garden —  for $65k-$95k a year. The post has since been removed.


Lotta groceries: Instacart saw its revenue jump 50%+ YoY in Q4, and gross profit surged 80%+. Full-year revenue rose 39% to ~$2.5B in 2022.

Happy face: Typeface, a startup building an AI-powered dashboard for enterprise customers to draft marketing content, raised $65m.

Study: Inflation drove consumers to purchase private-label brands. Now, 73% of shoppers intend to keep it that way even when things turn around.

Hola, Tesla: Mexico’s president said the automaker plans to build its third plant outside the US there, representing an investment worth ~$10B.

Real fast. At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Chinese smartphone maker Realme released the GT3, a phone that can supposedly fully charge in nine minutes and 30 seconds.

Target saw same-store sales increase by 0.7% in Q4, exceeding expectations, as consumers bought essentials over discretionary items.

Be honest: The FTC is warning tech companies not to exaggerate their AI products’ capabilities.

That’s cool: A German circus swapped real animals with 3D holograms. They use 11 laser projectors, operated by one person.

Family-friendly: The Biden admin announced that semiconductor companies must offer workers affordable child care if they want in on ~$40B in subsidies.

Product plans: To build an effective strategy and hone their vision, product managers use product management frameworks. Here are 13 different types.

Hot Wheels
Zachary Crockett

The collectors who spend thousands on rare Hot Wheels

By day, Bruce Pascal is a successful commercial real estate executive who brokers multimillion-dollar deals in the nation’s capital.

By night, he buys $5k Hot Wheels cars on eBay.

Pascal owns what is considered the world’s most valuable Hot Wheels collection, a staggering array of 7k rare toy cars that are collectively insured for $1.5m.

  • Many are prototypes that were acquired from former Mattel employees, including a pink 1969 Rear-Loading Beach Bomb valued at ~$150k.

Pascal is one of a handful of super collectors, dealers, and middlemen who pay top dollar for the rarest cars. It’s a colorful group that includes an ex-BMX stunt rider, an auto mechanics teacher, and a man who owns a geese-removal business.

How did one-time 59-cent toy cars become five-figure collectibles? And what drives grown men and women to spend princely sums chasing them?

Read the full story. →
Free Resource

The full-on business startup kit

If you can fill out all of these, then you have some serious assets.

Foundational docs for your first co-workers, swank-looking slides to soothe investors, and a pretty grounded picture of your launch plan.

It’s all right here. Take nine nimble templates to test that big idea, and expound on the pitch.

Startup-friendly templates to help you:

  • Brainstorm names
  • Pitch and present
  • Build your tech stack
  • Estimate expenses
  • Plan profit channels

Somewhere near you, a big idea is dying on a notepad.

Business launch kit →
Student Groans
graduation cap

The student loan forgiveness hearing, explained

Remember when the Biden admin tackled the $1.6T student debt problem by canceling $400B of it?

That plan hinged on the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students (HEROES) Act.

It allows the secretary of education to change federal student loan terms to stop borrowers from being worse off financially in the event of a national emergency — in this case, the pandemic.

But the joy borrowers felt was short-lived…

… as lawsuits rolled in and stalled relief. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard two such cases:

  • Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, and South Carolina allege that the Biden admin overstepped its authority.
  • Two borrowers, upset they didn’t qualify for forgiveness (though one did get a $48k PPP loan mostly forgiven), argue they should have been able to provide comment on the decision before it was made.

The court must now decide if the plaintiffs have “standing,” or the right to sue at all, and if the HEROES Act gives the Biden admin sufficient power to act as it did.

The takeaways

After over three hours of testimony, conservative justices seemed “skeptical” of Biden’s authority, per CNN, but all seemed to question whether plaintiffs face harm and, thus, have standing.

No standing, no case. But, per Forbes, the court could still rule on whether the forgiveness program was implemented legally, and Congress could still pass other programs.

What now?

The justices will vote in the upcoming days, but may not make a decision until June. Regardless, student loan repayment will resume 60 days after litigation is resolved.

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🌎 On this day: In 1961, President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps. That year, ~750 volunteers out of thousands of applicants served in 13 nations.

😕 That’s interesting: Buy Nothing groups are supposed to foster sharing and community among neighbors, but they’re not without drama. Here’s an inside look at the founders’ struggle to leave Facebook.

🎧 Podcast: In this episode of Create Like the Greats, host Ross Simmonds explains how he built a $270k freelance business by 27, and has a conversation with Black Freelancer co-founder Sterling Smith.

🍲 Useful: Find recipes based on how many calories you want to eat.

🦌 Aww: And now, an elk friend.

showbiz tweet

Sounds tight, though. (Link.)

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Today’s email was brought to you by Jacob Cohen, Juliet Bennett Rylah, and Rob Litterst.
Editing by: Mark “That’s showbiz” Dent.

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